The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
April 7, 2004

Issue -
ISSN: 1538-3202
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In this Issue

Message from the Editor

Retaliation! One Million Dollar Verdict for Special Ed Teacher Upheld

Vindication! The Inside Story of the Settlegoode Case

Lesson from Settlegoode Case: Paper Trails

Lesson from Settlegoode Case: Letter-Writing

Save $10 on Emotions to Advocacy

Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates (COPAA)

Wrightslaw Programs in AK, MD, AL

Help from Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities

Subscription and Contact Info 

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At Wrightslaw, our goals are to help you gain the information and skills you need navigate the confusing world of special education. In this issue, we look at retaliation.

Highlights: One million dollar verdict for special ed teacher in retaliation case upheld; inside story of one million dollar verdict; lessons from the Settlegoode case - paper trails and letter writing; save $10. on Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy; Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates; Wrightslaw programs in AK, MD, AL; help from Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities.

Wrightslaw is ranked #1 in education law, special education law, and special education advocacy. (2003 Alexa rankings)

The Special Ed Advocate newsletter is free - please forward this issue or the subscription link to your friends and colleagues so they can learn about special education law and advocacy too. We appreciate your help! Download newsletter

1. Message from the Editor

This issue of The Special Ed Advocate focuses on the case of Pamella Settlegoode, the special education teacher who was retaliated against and fired for advocating for her students.

After she was fired, Dr. Settlegoode filed suit against her school district and supervisors. On November 16, 2001, a jury found for Dr. Settlegoode on all claims. The jury awarded her one million dollars and an additional $50,000 in punitive damages against the special education director and an assistant.

A few months later, a magistrate judge overturned the jury award. Dr. Settlegoode appealed.

On March 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reinstated the jury award in Pamella Settlegoode's case. The decision includes strong language about freedom of speech for teachers. With support from advocacy litigation agencies, other teachers who are trapped in oppressive work environments will use this case as a roadmap.

To Pamella, her husband, Bill Goode, and her attorneys: Thank you for your tireless efforts on behalf of our children and on behalf of the teachers who advocate for our children, often putting their jobs on the line in the process.

2. Retaliation! One Million Dollar Verdict for Special Ed Teacher Upheld!

On Monday, April 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the jury verdict and reinstated the 1 million dollar award to Pamella Settlegoode. The decision clarifies the importance of freedom of speech for teachers:

"Teachers are uniquely situated to know whether students are receiving the type of attention and education that they deserve and, in this case, are federally entitled to . . . This particularly so with respect to disabled children, who may not be able to communicate effectively that they lack appropriate facilities. Teachers may therefore be the only guardians of these children’s rights and interests during the school day (emphasis added).

The decision in Pamella Settlegoode v. Portland Public Schools is available in two formats:

In HTML: https://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/04/9th.settlegoode.portland.htm

In PDF: https://www.wrightslaw.com/law/caselaw/04/9th.settlegoode.portland.pdf

More Special Education Caselaw

3. Vindication! The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict

In an interview two days after the jury verdict, Pamella Settlegoode told Pete, "This has been the 'most heart-wrenching and hellish experience of my life."

"My children want to learn PE, they love it, they want to be athletes, they want to learn, they are teachable, and that was not the problem. The problem is a system that views children with disabilities as second-class citizens."

The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict takes you through the Settlegoode case from the beginning. The article includes links to the Complaint, pretrial order, jury instructions, and the decision from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict

Learn about Retaliation

Learn about Section 504 & Discrimination

To learn more about teacher rights and responsibilities under IDEA, Section 504, FERPA, and NCLB, and other issues of interest to teachers, visit Teachers at Wrightslaw.

4. Lesson from the Settlegoode Case: Paper Trails

"If it wasn't written down, it wasn't said. If it wasn't written down, it didn't happen." Pete Wright (From Emotions to Advocacy, page 201)

Good records are important to effective advocacy. When you advocate for a child, you use logs, calendars, journals, and letters to create paper trails. Documents that support your position help you resolve disputes early. These two articles about documents and paper trails will help you get started:

Documents and Paper Trails teaches you how to use logs, calendars and journals to create paper trails; how to document phone calls and meetings.

The Paper Chase: Managing Your Child's Documents. When you have kids with special education needs, you can be overwhelmed by the paperwork in no time. In this article by Massachusetts attorney Bob Crabtree, you learn what documents are important and how to organize your child's documents. Learn how to use a log and documents to prevent problems and get better services for your child.

5. Lesson from the Settlegoode Case: Letter Writing

When you read The Inside Story of the One Million Dollar Verdict about the Settlegoode case, you learned that Dr. S. wrote letters that documented her concerns about her students. Although her supervisors ordered her to stop writing letters, she did not stop.

Change the facts. Assume Dr. S. was fired and filed a lawsuit. Assume she testified about these incidents but did not have letters that substantiated her claims. Do you think the outcome of her case would have been different? Absolutely!

You need to write letters to clarify events and what you were told. If you have a dispute with the school, your letters are independent evidence that support your memory.

These articles about letter-writing will help you finetune your letter-writing skills.

Art of Writing Letters - In this article you learn to use tactics and strategies when you write letters to the school. You learn about the Blame Approach and the Story-Telling Approach; the sympathy factor; first impressions; pitfalls; and the powerful decision-making Stranger. 

12 Rules for Writing Great Letters - If you have a problem with the school or concerns about your child's program, you must document your concerns in writing. This article includes twelve rules for writing letters, along with editing tips.

More about paper trails and letter writing

6. Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy - $10 Off!

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy includes a chapter about documents, a chapter about using logs, journals and calendars to create paper trails, two chapters about letter writing, and more than a dozen sample letters.

You learn about purposes of letters and strategies to ensure that your letters accomplish their purposes. We provide advice about how to write business-like letters, letter-writing tips, and sample letters that you can adapt to your circumstances.

You learn two approaches to letter writing - the Blame Approach and the Story-Telling Approach, about the Sympathy Factor, persuasion, and why you must not write angry letters to the school.

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy includes sample letters that you can tailor to your own circumstances, including letters to:

* Request Information
* Request a Meeting with a Teacher
* Document a Problem
* Express Appreciation
* Decline a Request
* Request an Evaluation
* Request a Records Review
* Request an IEP Meeting
* Request Your Child's Test Scores
* Document Unresolved or Ongoing Problems
* Provide Ten-Day Notice to Withdraw Child

Internet Orders l Mail, Fax, Phone Orders l Discounts l

"Expect this book to be tabbed and dog-eared - it is an invaluable advocacy tool." - The Tourette Gazette

Wrightslaw books are reasonably priced ($29.95) - easy on tight budgets.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law (ISBN 1-892320-03-7)

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy (ISBN 1-892320-08-8) - $10 Off

Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (ISBN: 1-892320-12-6)

Discounts & Exam Copies

50% Discount on Bulk Purchases of Wrightslaw Books
-The Advocacy Challenge Discount is a 50% discount on bulk purchases of Wrightslaw books.

Exam Copies - Teachers in colleges and universities around the country use Wrightslaw books in education, special education and special education law courses. Learn more

7. Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates (COPAA)

Are you an attorney who represents children with disabilities? Are you an advocate who helps parents negotiate for special ed services? Do you need current, reliable information about special ed law? Do you work for a public interest law firm or legal advocacy center?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," you need to join the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)!

COPAA is an independent, nonprofit, §501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization of attorneys, advocates and parents, whose primary mission is to secure educational services for children with disabilities.

Learn more about COPAA - Mission Statement, Goals and Objectives, Membership, Activities.

Membership Information, Benefits.

8. Coming Soon! Wrightslaw Programs in Alaska, Maryland, Alabama

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy Training Programs focus on four areas: special education laws, rights & responsibilities; how to use the bell curve to measure progress & regression; SMART IEPs; and tactics & strategies for effective advocacy.

Juneau, Alaska (Boot Camp) - April 8-9, 2004

Anchorage, Alaska
 (Boot Camp)- April 13-14, 2004

Annapolis, Maryland
(Boot Camp) - April 30-May 1, 2004

Birmington, Alabama (1 day advocacy training) - May 25, 2005

Wrightslaw programs are usually "sold out" so if you plan to attend, don't procrastinate - register today!

If you are interested in bringing Pete and Pam Wright to your community, please read our FAQs about Seminars. (We are scheduling programs for 2005-2006.)

9. Need Help? Visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities

If you are looking for help - or a helper - visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities. Your state Yellow Pages has many resources - evaluators, speech language therapists, tutors, special ed schools, advocates, attorneys, organizations, and support groups.

Strategies to Find a Support or Study Group

What to Expect from an Evaluation of Your Child

Working with Independent Evaluators and Educational Consultants

Questions for a Lay Advocate

Questions for an Attorney

10. Subscription & Contact Info

The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, and tactics and strategies. Subscribers receive "alerts" about new cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books.

Law Library Seminars & Training
Advocacy Yellow Pages for Kids
No Child Left Behind Free Newsletter
IDEA Reauthorization Newsletter Archives

Contact Info

Pete and Pam Wright
Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043
Website: https://www.wrightslaw.com
Email: newsletter@wrightslaw.com

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